Chicago Bulls Roster: Bench Mob 2.0?


Could the Chicago Bulls be putting the band back together? Could history be repeating itself?

The summer of 2010 saw the Chicago Bulls miss out on top tier free agents such as LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. The team responded by using their available cap space to field one of the deepest teams, with line-ups that would run 10 to 12 players deep. The second unit became known as The Bench Mob, a high-energy unit that played suffocating defense thanks to reserves Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, and could score in bunches due to the shooting of CJ Watson and Kyle Korver. The Bench Mob held a clear advantage over other teams’ second units and were often able to extend leads or erase deficits created by the starters. The team would go on to finish the season with the best record in the league, earning them the #1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

After the original Bench Mob dissolved the Bulls have been unable to replicate the depth that gave them an advantage over other teams around the league, until now.

Fast forward to the summer of 2014 and the Bulls once again found themselves coming up short in pursuit of a top-tier free agent. Like 2010, the Bulls used their cap space to sign multiple players, once again giving them quality depth. With an opportunity to re-create the success of the original Bench Mob it’s time to examine what five players will have the biggest impact for the Chicago Bulls Bench Mob 2.0.

Aaron Brooks

Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

One of the fastest guards in league, the former Most Improved Player Award winner brings speed, scoring and shooting to the Bulls bench. Brooks has bounced around the league the past few years but I believe this team is the perfect place for Brooks. The Chicago Bulls have become infamous for playing a system that highlights offense oriented quick guards; CJ Watson, John Lucas III, Nate Robinson and DJ Augustin have all found success playing in Chicago for Tom Thibodeau. Brooks fits the mold of these players, which alone, should correlate to an impactful season, couple that with Brooks having had prior success in the league and I think the Bulls got a steal.

Kirk Hinrich

Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago mainstay Kirk Hinrich has the opportunity to move back into the role he signed up for. After injuries to Derrick Rose the past two years Hinrich was thrust into the starting line-up, with Derrick’s return Hinrich can return to providing defensive energy off the bench, a role he himself is looking forward to:

Hinrich’s energy and tenacity are what have made him a fan-favorite here in Chicago, moving back to bench will allow Hinrich to go full throttle during his minutes on the court.

Doug McDermott

Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The reigning NCAA Men’s Basketball Player of the Year gets a rare opportunity with the Bulls, not many lottery picks find themselves on teams contending for a title their rookie season, it’s even rarer for these rookies to make an impact but that’s exactly what I believe McDermott will do. The one constant throughout McDermott’s basketball career has been him overcoming doubters.

McDermott wasn’t highly recruited out of highschool, he joined the Creighton Bluejays in Omaha, Nebraska and quickly started making a name for himself, but the doubters kept coming. After scoring 20+ points a game his sophomore and junior year people questioned the talent McDermott was facing. Then in his senior season, with Creighton moving into the stronger Big East conference he yet again proved doubter wrong scoring 25+ points per game on his way to earning several awards and honors.

Then came the Summer League, doubters once again showed up proclaiming that McDermott would struggle against the better class of athletes, but McDermott just kept on doing what he does, scoring 18 points a game and knocking down 44% of his 3-pointers.

McDermott’s ability to score and rise to the occasion have him primed for an impact rookie season.

Nikola Mirotic

Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

As the leader of the Nikola Mirotic fan club the first two days of training camp have been great for me. Let’s take a look at what Bulls players have been saying about Mirotic:

"“He’s pretty good (pause); he’s really good. And he adds a different dimension to the game. He’s a lot more than just a shooter. He’s a great shooter, and he’s done a lot of things that are pretty surprising. You don’t think of stretch fours as guys that can block shots, run the floor, and he can; he’s a hell of a player. Yeah, he’s pretty complete. I think he’s definitely one of our secret weapons.’’ – Joakim Noah"

"“He’s been playing great. He’s knocking down a lot of long threes; it’s been great. He’s learning from me, I’m learning from him.” – Taj Gibson"

"“He’s going to surprise people by the way that he puts the ball down. Like if you fly out at him, he’s able to really attack the rim and avoid charges. He did a couple of moves where it was supposed to be a charge, but he pumped his way around the opponent and scored the ball. We already know he can shoot, but he’s good.’’ – Derrick Rose"

The praise didn’t end their as even Tom Thibodeau was singing the rookie’s praises:

"“The thing that I really like about his game is he knows when to shoot and he knows when to pass. He doesn’t force things. When he’s open, he shoots. If you’re closing at him hard, he’ll put it down on the floor. If he’s guarded well, he’ll make a play. Usually when a guy plays like that, the team will function well. Knowing your job and doing your job, those things are critical to winning.” – Tom Thibodeau"

With Mirotic’s game already opening eyes in practice I can’t wait to see him out on the court. His shooting and size adds a whole new element to this Chicago Bulls team. With great coaching and excellent passers all over the court I expect Mirotic’s ability to knock down the three to be a huge advantage for the Bulls when he’s on the court.

Taj Gibson

Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The runner-up for last year’s Sixth Man of the Year Award (and rightful recipient if you ask me), Taj Gibson returns to his role as a leader off the bench. Gibson is talented enough to start on many rosters around the league, having him come off the bench for Chicago is a huge advantage over other teams.

Gibson displayed a much improved offensive game last season, he knocked down jumpers, displayed some good post moves, and got to the free throw line with greater regularity, all on his way to posting a career high in points and True Shooting Percentage (TS% is a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 2-point FG’s, 3-point FG’s, and free throws).

With his improved offense and still elite defense Taj Gibson will be the catalyst of Bench Mob 2.0.

Picture it with me now, Brooks and Gibson pick and rolls with Hinrich, McDermott and Mirotic spread out spacing the floor. If their defenders cheat off to help on the pick and roll all three can knock down the outside shot, if their defender closes out too hard all three can put the ball on the floor and make a play. Where the original Bench Mob was dominant defensively the new incarnation should dominate opposing team’s benches offensively. Monday will be our first look at the Bench Mob 2.0 as the Bulls face off against The Wizards at the United Center.

Well Pippen Peoples, training camp is here and the season is about to start at the end on the month. The staff of Pippen Ain’t Easy will be on top of every story (real or imagined) with in-depth analysis and opinions on all things Chicago Bulls. Be sure to check in at Pippen Ain’t Easy for all your Bulls news and analysis. Leave your comment below and let your voices be heard. Your comments count! Use Pippen Ain’t Easy as  your guide through this NBA season.

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